In business, like karate, some things are basic to success

The best leaders understand fundamentals but are quick and creative, too

I studied karate when I was in high school and college. My instructors were “content experts” and correctly didn’t ask for student input. It was a militaristic, hierarchical system, and it worked well. In that arrangement, there’s only one way to throw a certain punch or kick, and the teacher tries to help you do it that way without variation.

Once students learn all the component techniques, they can practice fighting using those methods creatively in a sequence of their choosing. But up until that point and in every class, the “master” is fully in charge and neither asks for nor accepts input.

In business, like karate, some techniques are fundamental to success. I cover some of these in my book, Never Kick a Cow Chip on a Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want to Be.

I see entrepreneurial organizations that have brilliant market-pleasing ideas but don’t know some of the basics (not punching and kicking, but cash management, planning, accountability techniques, etc.), and they lose the fight that they could’ve won.

You’d no more put someone into a mixed martial arts competition without training than you’d put me into a flamenco dance contest. Yet homegrown entrepreneurial organizations get into fights they can’t win because they never learned how to correctly punch and kick!

Juxtaposed, I see some larger organizations that know the basics of business but use a rigid approach in a street fight and get their ass kicked by a quicker, more creative opponent.

Few entrepreneurs end up running large, successful companies. Few large-company professional managers succeed in entrepreneurial environments. One isn’t better than the other, but they’re different. And if you can smash a few atoms and get both skills in one person — or at least get them to coexist in the same organization — you have a great opportunity for success!

Categories: Management & Leadership